“Oh my god. You have horrible taste in music,” Caroline shook her head and switched places with Hunter, landing him beside me.
“Did he not sleep last night or what?” I whispered to Hunter.
He shook his head in reply. “I think we fell asleep after about 3 in the morning.”
He shrugged. “We had a few things to go through.”
He shrugged again.
I ran my fingers through Hayden’s silky soft hair, knowing from experience how much he lathered it with expensive hair products. His face was nuzzled into my stomach, arms hanging loosely around my waist.
“You should get some sleep too,” I told him and he nodded, stretching out his legs and reclining as far back as he could. He rested his head against the cold glass pane of the window.
“We should stop for some coffee,” Caroline spoke up, four hours later as I yawned, bleary eyes opening to watch the sun sinking nearer to the horizon. “I’m craving an iced mocha.”
“Yeah, sounds good,” I said, unable to move. Hayden hadn’t moved from his position but Hunter’s head was now resting on my shoulder, his nose buried in my neck as he slept like a baby.
Caroline had switched to the driver’s seat while Ryder rode shotgun. Hayden was now stirring awake as he squirmed on my lap. After a few minutes, he sat up, hair disheveled and his face twisted in confusion.
“Good morning, sweetheart. Had a nice nap?” I teased.
“Hm,” he muttered, pulling away from me to stretch and yawn. His arms landed back around me almost lazily as he looked out of the window, one hand going to his messy hair.
“How much longer?” he asked.
“About an hour,” Caroline told him.
“I have been sleeping for four hours?” he asked, sounding shocked.
“Yup. That’s what you get when you sleep past 3,” I rolled my eyes.
He didn’t even look surprised that I knew.
“Yeah well, if it wasn’t for a certain vixen who kept snoring really loudly when I was trying to sleep, I would have nodded off much sooner.”
“I did not!” I immediately defended, scowling at his laughing form.
“Oh, you so did.”
“Would the two of you shut up? I’m already nursing a massive headache,” Ryder snapped, shooting us glares. I smiled back sheepishly and stuck my tongue out at Hayden who shook his head at me.
Soon after, Caroline pulled over at a Starbucks that popped out of nowhere in the deserted highway. I gently shook Hunter awake, his deep, clogged with sleep baritone greeting me. As soon as we stepped into the cafe, Hayden made a bee-line for the refreshment rooms; to straighten and style his precious hair probably. Caroline and Ryder followed him, leaving Hunter and I to order the drinks.
I grabbed a blueberry muffin and began munching on it as Hunter recited the orders. The store was nearly empty with only a group of shady teenagers sitting at the far side of the shop. Why shady, you ask? Well, they all wore similar black pieces of garment that looked like some kind of cloak with flashy red bandannas tied around the neck.
Who even wore bandannas anymore?
I could tell that there were two boys and one girl, who followed us with hungry eyes as we made our way to a table in the centre. I ran a hand over my hair, loosening the band as my hair tumbled down my back in waves. I began gathering my dark brown tendrils into a bun when the rubber was literally snatched out of my hands.
“Keep it down. It looks good,” Hunter told me, shooting me a grin before pocketing my rubber.
“I swear you have like a collection of those by now,” I narrowed my eyes at him but let my hair cascade down my back.
He shrugged as Hayden returned to the table. He pulled back the chair next to me with a scrape, unaware of the hooded eyes following him. Grabbing my half-eaten muffin, he popped it into his mouth with a disgusting open-mouthed grin at me.
I wrinkled my nose at him. “Do I know you?”
He was about to talk while still eating the muffin when I smacked the back of his head. He let out an oof but finished eating before talking again.
“Why are those creepy dudes staring at us like that?”
“No idea,” Hunter muttered, fist clenching and unclenching as he threw a look over his shoulder. One of the ‘creepy dudes’ smirked and the chick beside him, winked at Hunter.
“Brother,” Hayden started. By the tone of his voice, I knew it was going to be something stupid. “Do you think that’s your future boyfriend?”
Hunter shot him a glare. “Oh? Why? Do you want me to set up a date with him for you?”
“Nah, I’m good. I have my girl right over here,” Hayden smirked, dragging my seat towards him so he could sling an arm around my waist.
I slappped his arm away. “I’m not your girl.”
“Exactly, she’s mine,” Hunter smirked, pulling me to him. I scowled at both of them and distanced my seat as they chuckled.
“Hey,” a high pitched voice greeted from behind me.
I turned around and surprise, surprise, her eyes were solely focused on Hayden and Hunter. She twirled a tendril of her blazing red hair around her finger, her hood pushed back to reveal a perfect heart-shaped face, complete with natural high arched eyebrows, pink, full set of lips and dazzling green eyes.
I frowned, suddenly feeling self-conscious of my dull brown orbs. Without really waiting for an answer, she went on,
“I haven’t really seen you around here.”
“Yeah, we are just passing through,” Hayden said, toying with a bottle-cap with a smirk on his face. The jerk knew she was there for him.
“Oh,” she sounded disappointed. “Where are you guys heading?”
“Eustace Island,” Hunter answered this time, sharing a smirk with his brother that had me feeling suspicious.
“Oh! Well, do you mind if I join you?” her voice nearly purred out like a fucking cat. I wrinkled my nose but said nothing as she took it upon herself to sit beside Hayden, facing Hunter. She waved her friends over without even asking and the twins stiffened when two of the guys took a seat across from me, eyeing me up and down like I was a snack they hadn’t had in a long time.
By that time, Caroline had returned, frowning when she was that we had company. The only two seats available were on either sides of the guys and almost immediately, Hunter stood up and asked Caroline to sit in his seat next to me. I couldn’t decide whether it was out of actual care or because he could sit next to the girl who grinned happily when he took a seat next to her.
“Who are these people?” Caroline whispered to me.
“I don’t know, ask the twins,” I retorted, feeling annoyed for some reason.
“My name’s Sarah,” the girl introduced as if she had heard us. “And that’s Landon and Jason.”
“That’s a really sweet name,” Hunter winked, bringing the back of her hand to his lips. Almost as if involuntarily, his eyes flickered to mine. I stared back at him with a blank expression, not knowing why he was looking at me.
I nearly jumped when I felt a hand land on my thigh. I turned to Hayden who leant over to whisper to me.
“He loves seeing you jealous.”
My entire body jolted at his words.
“Jealous of who?” I nearly snorted. “Her?”
He just smirked in reply before turning to shower the redhead with his attention, his hand not moving from my thigh.
“Hey beautiful,” the guy from across me leant over the table. “What’s a hot girl like you doing out here in this boring town?”
“We are just passing through,” I repeated breezily, ignoring the way he was staring at me. Hayden’s hand on my leg tightened.
“Back off, dude. She’s taken,” Hayden lied, glaring at Jason, or that’s what I think his name was.
“Well, since you’re pretty much ignoring her, I might as well have my fun.”
“You can’t have it both ways, dude,” he complained.
I rolled my eyes at the protective male next to me. “Calm down. It’s not like I’m interested.”
That seemed to rile Jason up. “Well bitch, you ain’t that beautiful either.”
My eyes widened at his words but before I could say anything, Hayden was out of his chair. He stalked over to Jason and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.
“What did you just call her?” he snarled in a low voice. I shivered.
“She’s a bitch—”
That idiot had a death wish.
A sickening crunch echoed around the shop, followed by a gasp. Landon stood up in alarm but was pulled back by both Hunter and Ryder.
“Call her that again,” he sneered. “I dare you.”
The poor guy just whimpered in Hayden’s grasp, blood sprouting out of his nose like a fountain colored red.
“Hayden, leave him,” I sighed as I placed my hands over his chest and pushed him away from the bleeding guy. Not that it made much of a difference but I had to try. “Hayden,” I said, more firmly this time.
I tugged at his shoulders until he released the guy. He turned around and stalked out of Starbucks barking,
“You have shitty service here.”
I pursed my lips and looked on at the teens who were now scrambling away from us. Caroline followed me as I swiveled around and moved outside. To my surprise, it was raining. And there stood Hayden with bloody knuckles as he allowed himself to get soaked.
“I swear you need anger management classes,” I muttered as I jogged over to him. His eyes met mine with a ferocious intensity that had shivers running up and down my spine. Taking both his wrists in mine, I tugged him over to the jeep and dug around at the back for the first aid kit that Ryder always kept ready. Carefully, taking his bleeding knuckles in my hands, I worked on them without looking up at him.
“You need to stop doing that,” I told him finally as I released his hands. “I can fight my own battles. You don’t need to be violent.”
He snorted. “Yeah right. What would you do? Just stay quiet and give him that death stare of yours?”
“He called me a bitch, so what? Everybody has their own rights of judgement.”
“So you wanted me to just sit there and hear him talk shit about you?”
“Look,” I said, finally looking up so my eyes clashed with his. “I don’t care what other people think of me. You know that. Their words aren’t just going to magically make it true. So what’s the difference, really? Why should I waste my energy on them?”
“It still doesn’t make me any less angrier,” he stated.
“I know,” I sighed, wrapping my arms around his neck as his arms automatically wound around my waist. “And I love you for it, really. But you’re hurting yourself. And that’s a plain no.”
“I don’t even feel it,” he said, fingers clamping around my hips as he dragged me closer.
“You say that every time,” I said, eyebrow raised. “You know i don’t buy the act that you’re made of steel, right?”
He grinned. “Maybe I really am. Made of steel.”
“Yeah right,” I laughed, pulling away.
We piled back into the jeep and I climbed into the driver’s seat. Caroline wanted to sit upfront so she rode shotgun while the guys slid into the back. Care started scrolling through the sound system to find a song that she liked.
“They say oh my god I see the way you shine,
Take your hand my dear, and place them both in mine,
You know you stopped me dead while I was passing by.
And now I beg to see you dance just one more time.”
I joined Caroline in a horrible impersonation of Tones and I as the boys groaned. We screamed out our lungs, spending whatever energy we had left in us for the last bit of the ride.
Finally, we arrived at our destination.
We stepped out of the jeep and handed it over to someone who was a friend of a friend of a cousin of Caroline’s.
And now was the exciting part.
We had to travel by boat until we reached the island. The boys didn’t think this was all too exciting and even Ryder was grumbling about having travelled by jet.
We piled into a boat and took turns rowing; the island wasn’t all that far so sooner than I would have liked, we washed over the moonlit shores.
The sky was a mesmerizing shade of violet overlapping indigo with splotches of pink and amber as if it were blushing. The moon peeked out over a horde of greyish clouds, dousing us with light as a fringe of stars winked back and forth, disappearing and reappearing from behind the clouds. The land belched with palm trees swinging in the air, occasionally bringing us the howls of the wind as if announcing our arrival.
But I was too exhausted to delve into the beauty of it all and truly, regret washed over me in waves the next morning.
Looking like homeless teenagers, we trudged up the path and followed the twins to where the ‘small’ cottage awaited. Don’t be fooled. There was nothing small about it.
Without a word, we retired to our rooms and freshened up before flopping on our fluffy pillows and thick comforters.
The next day awaits.